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Botetourt County school leaders approve reopening plan, name new superintendent

Dr. Jonathan Russ is currently deputy superintendent for Fredericksburg City schools

BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va.UPDATE ON REOPENING PLAN

Monday afternoon, Botetourt County School Board members unanimously approved a plan to reopen the district’s schools and a health plan for summer athletics conditioning.

The new school year will begin Aug. 10.

Students will go to school on Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday and will learn remotely the other three days of the week.

Students can, however, choose to take all their classes remotely.

They will not be considered home schooled, so they will still be eligible to participate in athletics.

Students from the same family and who choose to go to school will have the same schedule.

Schedules will be released in July once transportation schedules have been finalized.

Masks will be optional in school but mandatory on buses.

“We feel like the safest education we can provide is this plan,” said interim Botetourt County Superintendent Dr. Larry Massie. “We will return to full, in-person education for every child every day just as soon as it’s possible.”

The plan will be re-evaluated before the spring semester.

UPDATE ON NEW SUPERINTENDENT

As local school districts continue to prepare for what could be a difficult school year, Botetourt County is breathing a little easier now that a new superintendent has been hired.

“We’re going to work hard, but we’re going to have fun,” Dr. Jonathan Russ said as he spoke to the crowd gathered at a special called Botetourt County School Board Meeting Monday to introduce hi as the new superintendent.

In his own words, Russ said he’s stepping into his role as Botetourt County’s superintendent with a lot of ideas about how to get through the challenging months ahead.

“This is something we’re going to have to do together. Not one person has the answers for this,” Russ said.

It’s a task he’s well suited for.

“I’m a people person. I develop relationships easily, even with some of the most difficult people,” said Russ. “I know my skill set and I know I have no problem making decisions collaboratively.”

School Board Chairwoman Michelle Crook said how his leadership style would get the district through the pandemic was the first question asked during the interview process.

“The return to school is not going to look normal. It’s not going to be anything like we’ve seen before. All divisions are going through this and there’s no right or wrong answer, but we’re going to have to adapt,” said Crook. “He did a fantastic job helping getting a plan together where he’s coming from.”

Simply having a new superintendent in place, though, is also going to make navigating the upcoming school year a little less stressful.

“That’s one less unknown that we have in our school division.,” said Crook.

One unknown down, but there are still many more to be addressed as the district prepares to reopen schools.

ORIGINAL STORY

On Monday morning, the Botetourt County School Board announced it’s hired a new superintendent.

Starting July 1, Dr. Jonathan Russ, a Virginia Tech alumnus, will take the helm of the school division.

He comes to Botetourt County with 29 years of experience working as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, director of assessment and accountability, director of human resources, chief administrative officer and deputy superintendent.

Since 2019, Russ has served as the Deputy Superintendent of Fredericksburg City Public Schools.

“I am elated and honored to be selected as the next superintendent of Botetourt County Public Schools,” said Russ. “I am grateful to the Botetourt County School Board for this opportunity. This school division has an excellent reputation and I am excited to work collaboratively with the school board, staff and the community in Botetourt County.”

Russ earned a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies from Virginia Tech, a Master of Education from George Mason University and a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics from Emory & Henry College.

37 candidates applied for the position, according to the Virginia School Boards Association, which the school board voted to use for the search.

Of those 26 were men and 11 were women.

Coincidentally, 26 were from Virginia, while 11 were out-of-state applicants.

Russ was one of seven candidates who served as an assistant/associate/deputy superintendent.

Eleven applicants were either current or former superintendents.

Russ comes to Botetourt County after the departure of Dr. Lisa Chen.

Chen announced her resignation in April, and before her term would have expired on June 30, the school board appointed Dr. Larry Massie as interim superintendent a few days later.